A Walk in the Park

I can only assume things are getting .. if not already been.. crazy wherever you might call home.  All the large events have now been canceled (including two of my scheduled races for April), schools have been shuttered, remote work has been instituted where possible and now we officially have our first confirmed case of the Coronavirus in our local area.  I’ll spare you the political gamesmanship that is going on at the same time beyond the tidbit my tax evading governor of our broke state is on TV complaining that people are continuing to go outside – the horror, the horror (oh, but he still wants everyone to go out and vote on Tuesday – long live politics).  Will be interesting to see how this all plays out.  Lemons out of lemonade, there’s extra time to devote to the image backlog.

Birds of Jubilee State Park - June 2017

The queue can definitely use the extra attention now that it has been drastically inflated thanks to the discovery of the previously mentioned missing directory.  Being that it is currently snowing here in the heart of Illinois, decided to take you on a virtual bird walk.  There was a series of shots in the queue taken back in June of 2017 courtesy of a stroll through my favorite local state park – Jubilee College.  It happens to be only a mile south of us – our woods and those of my neighbor’s all link to this park.  A lot of my free time is spent there either training on hills or enjoying birding hikes on their many trails.   This collection is more focused on the bird variety discovered that day than the photographic execution.  Sometimes you just need to focus on the joy of being outdoors and experiencing nature leaving the stress of getting the camera and light settings mastered.  Sean O’Connell said it best “Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”

Birds of Jubilee State Park - June 2017

Hit the jump to do a little virtual birding!

Continue reading A Walk in the Park

A Biltmore Hummer

This is definitely not a month to dawdle.  You wouldn’t think the loss of only two days would be that stressful when it comes to blogging, but trust me, IT DOES!  This, of course, is more of a byproduct of my procrastination than a deliberate curse on my quota obligations by Pope Gregory XIII.  A large portion of blogs lately have been focused on our birding trip to Texas back in November 2013.  Figured I would break from that theme and give you something completely different.  Are you ready for something new?  Okay, you asked it… today’s new topic is …

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird shot at Biltmore Estates in Asheville NC July 2014

A bird! (hehehehe).  I didn’t really deceive you – this particular bird picture was taken in July of 2014 in a completely different state.  Yep, this master of the air currents was shot on our trip out to North Carolina.  On our way, we spent some time at Biltmore Estate.  If you recall, I was in a bind back in 2014 and pulled out a post covering the Mockingbird that was also shot at that time (link here).  Oh the days when posts used to come out in the same year the pictures were actually taken.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird shot at Biltmore Estates in Asheville NC July 2014

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of suspended motion.

Continue reading A Biltmore Hummer

Project Chekov: Hummingbird

So, we’ve had the big dogs in skies (the Eagles), and those that like a slow paddle in calm water (the Coots), so it only seems fitting that we have a post on the little dudes and dudettes that are constantly going about a 100 miles per hour.

You guessed it, today’s featured bird is the Hummingbird.  Out here in the Midwest (more affectionately called the Midtundra at the moment) we do not have a lot of variety when it comes to these birds so they are pretty easy to identify.  In fact it is ridiculously easy because a quick review of the Stokes reference manual confirms there is only ONE that frequents our area – most prefer to spend their time out in Texas or Central America – Guess catching that Black-Chinned Hummingbird in Vegas was a score (link here) seeing how that is the only other one I’ve really had a chance to check off.  Since this is from our backyard feeder (actually back porch feeder), we proudly introduce the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.

This isn’t a new bird to the Blog – it actually appeared back in Oct 2012 (link here), so this doesn’t result in a check.  It does give me the chance to talk a little bit about a bird with some interesting characteristics.  First of all, the Ruby part of the name is VERY apparent when they choose to show it.  As you can see in the two males above can hide that coloring and instead show a more boring darker chin.  Not sure if this is a choice they have or if there is some specific angle that really reveals it – wait, getting lazy, let me check that.  So it is all about the angle of the light – there ya go.  Unfortunately, this set of shots must have had bad lighting since none of them really show that bright ruby color.  You can see a little of it below.

Hit the jump to read a little more about these birds and view a few more intriguing shots

Continue reading Project Chekov: Hummingbird

To Check or Not to Check

I can’t believe it is October already!  Seems like this year is flying by way to fast – pretty soon it will be snowing in Denver.  What!?!  holy crap, it is snowing in Denver today.  Those Globull Warming dudes got some splaining to do.  I warned you on the last post we would once again be spending some time at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve  in the coming posts as I try to close out the second day of shooting there.  The good news is we are almost through that visit.. bad news is we had the opportunity to head back there a few months ago so we are far from over at that birding paradise.  To start the month off, I’m in need of some more help.  I am always amazed at how hard bird identification can be even with what I would consider unique features.  Two birds are featured here that gave me some troubles and thus not entirely sure if I have them right.  If I do, then there will be two new checks in the Bird List.  Always pleased when I can mark up the list and as you have seen in the past posts, this particular birding site was a goldmine of check marks.

First off I bring you this rather plain looking bird:

I suspect your first inclination is to ID it as an American Crow.  Pretty common bird around here so I have the advantage of seeing it just about every day.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time out in Yellowstone so I can definitely tell you how those compare to the mammoth Ravens out there.  But something just didn’t seem right about this one.  It was black (I can always get the easy ones) but the beak just didn’t seem to fit the large but blunter ones on the Crows around here.  The other part that was causing me some confusion was the tail.

It seemed to long and slender relative to the more stockier body frame of the Crow (and definitely smaller all around compared to those Ravens).  This concern sent me pouring over bird references looking for some other alternative.  Eventually I made my way to the Grackles.  Typically the Grackle is easy to distinguish due to the iridescent purple coloring when the light hits them right.  It is hard to tell in this picture due to having little sun at the moment this was taken but the shape is darn close from my perspective.  Post processing may have taken some slight shimmer out since I was thinking it was just a nicely posed Crow at the time.  The yellow eye definitely stands out which is a defining feature for the Grackle – the Crows and Ravens tend to have black on black eyes.  Now the hard part.. which Grackle.  The Common one is close but the images in the books definitely show more of a purple hue and/or more brownish than the full on black this one is sporting.  That left the Boat Tailed, but that is NO WHERE near where we were out in Nevada (more East Coast).  Could it be the Great Tailed Grackle?

To the web!

Take a gander at the set of images at AllAboutBirds.org (link here).  As mentioned, not positive, but it definitely looks similar to the Great Tailed Grackle shown there – and we can definitely dismiss the Common version. Would appreciate any help on this one.  I have no problem accepting that it is a Common Crow or possibly something I overlooked, but keep in mind that yellowish eye.  Definitely distinct.  Sorry I can’t give you any other angles, this was about the sum total of the shots.  With all the new birds there I likely didn’t spend much time on what I assumed at the time was a common bird.  Regardless of what the ID comes out as, the composition turned out nice especially with the first and this one.

The tail matched the twig angle and the head aligned with both the upper and lower branches giving a nice framing effect.  If you have time, take a stab at it and use the comments for any ideas.

Hit the jump for the second bird featured in this post!

Continue reading To Check or Not to Check

Making the Best of a Dreary Day

I have entered the lair of the enemy and lived to tell about it. How is that for a dramatic intro? So truth be told, for the last three days I have been in Iowa. Specifically, I have been in Iowa City, the home of black and gold and a dreaded enemy of Chief Illiniwek. Why would I subject myself to three days of Herky Hell? What would bring an Orange and Blue die hard to subject himself to an arch rival? Actually, the answer is pretty simple. Linda had the opportunity to benefit from their fine medical facilities at the University of Iowa and for that I will gladly swallow my pride and express my gratitude. I think we are now on a good path to getting some issues under control and if it takes a little humility to make that happen – well, bring it on. Just for the record, I’ll still root against them in any sports competition… although since the Illini once again suck pond water it will be done with more of an inside voice.

One impact of this is a significant reduction in available blogging time. With Project Auuuunold in full bore, another half at the end of the month and taking care of the other issues it doesn’t leave much time to tickle the keyboard. It is too early to throw in the towel, but need to warn you the focus will probably be on photography related topics since the post processing work is actually faster than the prep work for the other types of posts. As a start, here is a set taken off my porch one dreary day a few months back. There is a lot still to learn about the Beast and a little low light practice is never wasted. The Beast is a VRII 4.0f end to end glass . With the 1.4 Teleconverter on, it drops to 5.6f which thirsts for light out in the field. It was time to try out some different settings and modes to see how best to shoot birds when the light is not ideal. One bi-product of the drizzle caught me by surprise.  See anything interesting in this shot?

Nothing catch your eye?  Hmmm, how about another shot in a more traditional crop… hint, you might not associate this as a typical BoaS?

Hit the jump and I’ll zoom you into the subject.

Continue reading Making the Best of a Dreary Day